Keim Time: On Blaine Gabbert, Budda Baker and the IR decisions at hand
Cardinals general manager Steve Keim spent a long weekend after the Arizona Cardinals’ Thursday loss to the Seattle Seahawks on a scouting trip.
Keim joins Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station every Monday morning during the season. On a Tuesday edition, he wouldn’t say what teams or prospects he checked out but did talk about the quarterback situation looking ahead to the game against the Houston Texans on Sunday — and beyond. Keim also reviewed what went wrong in the team’s loss to the Seahawks and the play of youngsters like Budda Baker.
It’s Keim Time.
I’m sure you can’t wait to tell me, but can you tell me, where did you go this weekend? Who were the college kids you saw this weekend? Who impressed you? Who do you want to talk about 2018 draft-wise?
Nothing at this point. With the broad spectrum of Arizona Sports, I think everybody in the country would probably be on top of where I’ve been and who I’ve seen. I think you’ll do a good job of protecting me.
There’s been a lot of talk out there about 2017 and the season of 2018, and from your perspective as a general manager, can you do both? Can you make moves simultaneously for 2017 with an eye for the future?
I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive. I think there’s no doubt. I always have to keep an eye on the future, but at the same time, Coach’s message has been very point-blank, which is “one game at a time.” We’re focused on the Houston Texans right now and I think that’s the mindset we have to have.
So with the amount of injuries we’ve had and having to replace players — not only on the active roster but the practice squad — we’ve had to continually focus on each week. But obviously there’s no doubt that (we’re) having to work on a plan in place for not only 2018 but ’19 and ’20 moving forward.
In light of what Chris Mortensen said, that Drew Stanton is battling a bit of a knee issue, as you sit here Tuesday morning, who is the starting quarterback against the Houston Texans?
We haven’t practiced yet and I know one thing: Drew is extremely tough. He injured his knee I believe in the second quarter and finished the game. He’s the type of guy I would not bet against. It’s hard for me to say at this point. I don’t think it’s any secret that if Drew can’t play that Blaine Gabbert would be our starter, but I don’t think it’s something on Tuesday when we haven’t even been (at practice) that we can forecast yet.
I realize you’re not Bruce Arians, but how much of the game plan would change if Blaine Gabbert were the starting quarterback?
I’m sure there would be things that Bruce would do to cater to Blaine’s strengths. We know that he has the foot speed, the mobility to get outside of the pocket to do some different things. I think in the preseason he showed as well that he could throw from the pocket and could throw with accuracy and touch. I thought he looked extremely comfortable when he had an opportunity to play early on.
If that’s the case, you know, I think we’ll all be excited to see Blaine have an opportunity and see what he can do for us.
I’m basically getting to what Wolf and I have been discussing lately, is I believe Blaine Gabbert should be the starter — irrelevant of the knee injury, that’s unfair to Drew — just because you need to see what he can in the future for 2018 and going forward. Wolf’s opinion, very simply: if Drew gives you the best chance to win, that’s it. Drew starts.
What’s the opinion of a general manager when it comes to a starting quarterback in light of the future?
I think it’s to support the coaching staff and to put our team in the best position to succeed. That being said, there are so many things that you can go back and forth regarding that question. I know that’s not a pin-point answer but it really is (that way). If Blaine goes out and really struggled and didn’t play well this early with seven games left in the season, would you go back to Drew? Is that fair?
There are so many ways to look at it, that I think it’s a tough question to answer. Moving from Carson Palmer with the injury, we felt like Drew gave us the best opportunity at that time to win. Looking back on last Thursday night, I don’t think Drew Stanton could have played a whole lot better. I thought he played excellent, I thought he gave us a chance to win.
I was extremely disappointed with a lot of the other areas, which were drops. I don’t think that’s any secret. Our receiving corps, aside from Larry, really, quite frankly, let us down. Whether it was drops, whether it was tight ends in traffic not catching the football, but again, I thought Drew Stanton gave us a chance to win.
A lot of people out there that are reading into the Matt Barkley signing. You guys went out and you brought Matt Barkley into the fold and that must mean that maybe Drew Stanton is not healthy, or maybe you’re just starting to stock-pile quarterbacks. What is the truth behind Matt Barkley and the signing of Barkley?
I think it’s pretty simple, and I don’t want anybody to really overthink the process. When you have a starting quarterback who’s a little banged up, you can easily sign somebody — not just somebody who is off the street but somebody who has played with you before, knows your system and had a little bit of success last year in Chicago when he went there. Has played some football at this level, and certainly gives you the opportunity to do some good things if he was forced into play.
It’s one of those things, he gives you a great comfort level. Having the ability to come in in a short period of time, know your system and be able to operate under the circumstances where he would have to play.
Steve, if you could, tell us about the left tackle position. Pretty natural assumption by us, but do you plan on putting Jared Veldheer there now?
Yep. Jared will move back to left (tackle). I think the mindset there was putting the best five out there that gives us a chance. I think when we look at Jared, the fact that he’s played left tackle before and has played at a fairly high level, that’s a natural transition.
The sad part to me was D.J. Humphries was playing so well for a young guy that we talked about many times had to mature, had to grow up, got stronger in the weight room, changed his body around a little bit and to me, you know, was playing at a high level, it’s really tough to watch a young guy go through that. That’s disappointing. But Jared again, gives us the opportunity to move a guy over there who’s played the position and is a seasoned vet.
Where do things stand with D.J. right now? How’s he doing and what’s the initial prognosis moving forward?
We put him on IR. He’s a guy to me that has, again, worked extremely hard and I don’t see that changing moving forward. I think he’ll rehab this offseason and I would expect him up and ready to go for the start of the offseason program.
Steve, do you believe you’ve found your starting left tackle, your cornerstone left tackle?
I do, I do. I have a lot of confidence in D.J. I think where we drafted him was a little concerning at first for everybody because he didn’t come in with the mindset that he’s ready to go as an NFL pro. What he’s shown us over the past year and a half in terms of work ethic, intangibles and his competitiveness, which is the thing that probably excites me most, is how naturally competitive he is.
And as you know Wolf, his ability to roll his hips in the run game and create movement at the point of attack, some of those things are things that are really hard to teach a left tackle to do, and I think the sky is the limit for the young man, and I think he’ll continue to grow and get better.
Do you have a plan in place of who’s coming off of IR near the end of the season or is it pretty fluid?
There’s no doubt it’s fluid. There are probably anywhere from four to five guys: Whether it’s David Johnson, T.J. Logan, Mike Iupati, Aaron Brewer or even Carson Palmer that could potentially come back as the two designated-to-return players. We’ll determine that, again, in a fluid process of which guys are healing at a faster rate and what makes sense moving forward at that time of the year.
With the loss of (Tyvon) Branch, who would you anticipate to get the majority of his reps?
We were already transitioning Budda Baker into playing more because he’s earned it, but you know, it’s really sad. I thought Tyvon was playing at a high level. He’s a true pro, he’s a good man and again another guy who was great in our locker room. Sort of like you guys asked about having the opportunity to see Blaine Gabbert play, I’m excited about seeing Budda Baker play more and more football. You know, I thought he’s been our best special teamer in terms of tackling and the things he does in space covering ground on punts. And just watching him defensively getting more and more comfortable in the system.
He should have had an interception the other night against Seattle. His ability to cover ground and close off the hash, to me, really puts him in a place that he can be a special player, in my opinion. He’s physical already, he’s extremely competitive. I just think the more football he plays, the better he’s going to get.
As the general manager of the Cardinals watching Thursday Night Football, what was the most frustrating thing for you?
Lack of execution. You know, I know that Seattle’s got a really good defense. I felt like we got after them physically on our defensive side of the football. Guys like Budda Baker; I was excited to see Haason Reddick play exceptional. Some young guys that have played well, the physicality that we brought, but at the same time, three or four plays per game which continue to haunt us as big plays. That, for me, is extremely difficult to watch as well as the lack of execution on special teams, which continues to haunt us, and again, offensively from a receiving standpoint — guys letting us down.